For the 119th U.S. Open Championship at Pebble Beach, Cisco delivered the most connected U.S. Open in history. With over 200,000 expected in attendance, the USGA wanted to provide new ways for fans to consume and share content, both on-site and around the world. As 156 golfers and hundreds of thousands of fans walked the course, Meraki provided first of its kind, course-wide Wi-Fi. This included wireless for indoor, outdoor, and the first-ever test of Wi-Fi 6 access points at a major sporting event.
“For the first time ever, thanks to Cisco, we had the confidence that our fans would be able to stay connected to all the action inside the ropes and with friends and family back home no matter where they went on the course.” – Amanda Weiner, Senior Director, Digital Media, USGA
Hundreds of access points were deployed in a matter of days to blanket an ultra high density environment, and close to 39TB of internet traffic was transferred during the event. 70,000 unique clients roamed across the four-mile long Pebble Beach course, during a nationally televised event with 32 million people watching.
While Meraki Access Points are deployed in stadiums, golf courses add several unique challenges. These include the size of the course, weather conditions, and variability of Wi-Fi hot zones. Physical mounting, directional antennas, and RF settings must be configured to ensure a seamless fan experience. In addition, high-density areas like the media center and U.S. Open merchandise tent needed to be carefully planned to ensure high performance. The onsite media center at the course required connectivity for over 2,000 daily unique clients.
With Meraki Wi-Fi as the first point of network access across the course, we were able to introduce a number of innovative features within our U.S. Open App and video boards to enhance the fan experience.” – Amanda Weiner, Senior Director, Digital Media, USGA
The visibility of the Meraki dashboard and simplicity of configuring Wi-Fi was critical in delivering the connected course. The team was able to detect hot zones, deploy and tune the entire network in under a week. New Wi-Fi 6 APs were installed to allow the high density merchandise pavilion on the course to transfer close to 3TB of data. We will be hosting a live webinar with USGA on October 22nd, to understand their technology strategy, and learn how the Meraki Wi-Fi network helped deliver a connected fan experience.
¿Eres de los que constantemente está leyendo sobre lo último en IT? ¿Te has imaginado que nos espera en el futuro? Cisco Live Cancún, es un espacio único para conocer y experimentar la tecnología simplificada, segura e inteligente de Cisco Meraki que permite a las organizaciones transformarse digitalmente.
Cisco Live Cancún será del 28 al 31 de octubre y quisiéramos compartirte algunas razones para animarte a vivir esta experiencia con nosotros:
Sesiones técnicas: Meraki está incluido en siete sesiones técnicas. Estas sesiones se centran en tecnologías, estrategias de arquitectura, aplicaciones de solución de problemas para las soluciones o tecnologías de Cisco. Regístrese para las sesiones, ya que serán 100% Meraki. Los asistentes de Cisco Live pueden registrarse para estas presentaciones iniciando sesión en su cuenta en línea de Cisco Live e ingresando al catálogo de sesiones.
Vertical summits: hay un total de siete sesiones verticales en Cisco Live Cancún y Meraki es patrocinador de tres. Manténgase actualizado, conozca las historias de éxito de otras compañías que ahora son una referencia en su industria, haga crecer su red y comience o adapte su estrategia tecnológica para llevar a su compañía un paso por delante de su competencia en las sesiones para gobierno, educación y salud.
Zona DevNet: visite las sesiones de Meraki DevNet para obtener más información. Meraki tendrá seis sesiones en la zona DevNet. Los asistentes de Cisco Live pueden registrarse para estas presentaciones iniciando sesión en su cuenta en línea de Cisco Live e ingresando al Catálogo de sesiones.
Demos (World of solutions): como complemento a todas las sesiones de aprendizaje, en el World of Solutions, podrá ver las soluciones de Cisco y sus partners. También podrá encontrar a Meraki en una variedad de demos en todo el Cisco Showcase:
Launch | WiFi 6 Launch
Security | Meraki Security
Branch | Branch Security & SD-WAN powered by Meraki
Branch | Work Simple, Digital Workplace
Campus | Assurance in the Cisco Meraki Platform
Campus | High Density Wireless for Campus
5. Certificaciones: si necesita certificarse en las soluciones Cisco y reforzar su currículum, durante Cisco Live tiene la oportunidad de presentar cualquiera de los exámenes de certificación.
Además de todo lo que podrá aprender en este evento, Cisco Live Cancún también ofrece actividades divertidas y de ocio, como la tradicional carrera de 5 km, sesiones de yoga, el cóctel de apertura del WoS y la fiesta de clausura del evento.
Step anywhere on Butler University’s campus and you’ll see students swaying in hammocks in the outdoor quad, collaborating in large lecture halls, and cheering on the Butler Bulldogs at Hinkle Fieldhouse, all with a cell phone or laptop in hand. Butler was founded on the idea that everyone deserves access to a quality education, so it’s no surprise that the University’s leaders strive to provide equal access to all students and faculty by supplying campus-wide Wi-Fi. With more than 1,300 Cisco Meraki indoor and outdoor access points (APs) deployed across the campus, students can seamlessly connect wherever they are with no interruption to their education. The wireless upgrade also provided many unforeseen benefits to the IT team, directly impacting how they spend their time to improve everyday student life including ease of deployment, providing reliable connections, and gaining access to actionable insights.
Connecting 100,000 devices with the cloud-managed Wi-Fi
To the IT team’s surprise, the group who installed the cloud-managed access points didn’t need to have deep technical knowledge. The team deploying the APs comprised of both full-time IT staff and student workers, who together were able to deploy all 1,300+ APs across the campus in less than two weeks. This was made possible because of the cloud-managed Meraki dashboard, which allowed IT to preconfigure the devices before they arrived. They also used configuration templates, allowing the team to apply the same configuration to hundreds of devices and install them for immediate use. This enabled the student workers to simply plug the devices in and they were ready for use. In the last year since the deployment, over 100,000 devices have traversed the network, which has worked seamlessly for users.
High density with automated assurance
Once the deployment was complete, it was immediately apparent that connections were more reliable, there was better coverage, and more robust troubleshooting tools were available for faster time to resolution. Students now have the same experience using their laptops in their dorm room as they do in the outdoor quad, ensuring they can stay connected no matter where they are on campus. With higher density APs, the IT team has seen hundreds of students seamlessly connect in a lecture hall and use the devices they need to without issue. They can also see where the most bandwidth is being used and on what application, and can limit the amount of bandwidth certain applications or devices are using to improve connection reliability and speed across campus. Instead of acting reactively to issues affecting the wireless network or running complicated scripts to verify wireless performance, the IT team now uses automated assurance with MerakiWireless Health. They can quickly see the number of failed connections, obtain automated performance metrics, and provide root cause analysis of client connection issues. Different wireless needs exist across various environments on campus, including lecture halls, dorm rooms, stadiums, and outdoor spaces, and it was traditionally challenging to meet their different configuration needs. With Meraki, the IT team was able to create pre-defined and customizable RF Profiles to apply RF settings across all of their diverse environments.
The network as a platform
While providing reliable wireless access was the original IT team’s goal with their AP deployment, they quickly realized there was so much more they could do with their new solution. The information and tools already made available in the Meraki dashboard can inform how to design the campus moving forward, help improve student safety, allow them to personalize student experiences, and more. With Bluetooth beacons, they can send personalized communications to students that are connected to an AP in the dining hall, student center, or science building. By leveraging the Meraki API, they can pull data out of the dashboard and use it in other systems and tools to continue improving the student experience. With the vast amounts of data available at their fingertips, the IT team is continuing to explore new ways to take advantage of these insights and apply them to the University going forward.
Butler University is a pioneer in deploying innovative technology in the higher education industry. To learn why they chose Meraki wireless, how they were able to complete their deployment so quickly, how they leverage non-technical staff to manage and troubleshoot the network, and how they are thinking about using wireless data to do more than just provide access, watch the on demand webinar. Peter Williams, Associate Vice President of IT and Chief Information Officer, and Michael Denny, Network and Security Architect, at Butler University walk us through their Meraki deployment, including a live demo of their Meraki dashboard. Watch now.
Organizations are rich with information sources, from point-of-sale solutions and IoT sensors to camera systems and wireless access points. This data promises to optimize workplace processes and improve services by offering insights into customer behavior. But to truly take advantage of these benefits and make data-driven business decisions, organizations must find a way to connect their various data sources, presenting a complex challenge that can be difficult to execute in reality.
Miami-Dade Public Library System (MDPLS) is one organization that has figured it out. MDPLS started with an ambitious goal — to provide personalized, relevant, and timely experiences to more than six million annual visitors across their 50 library branches in Miami-Dade County, Florida. To do this, MDPLS needed to understand unique differentiators about each library, such as how many guests they served, when the busiest times were, and what services were the most popular. By using APIs in combination with data and analytics, they were able to collect this valuable information and turn it into actionable insights.
In order to identify the personalized services and content required at each library, MDPLS needed to determine what data sources to pull from. The wired and wireless network was one clear choice to gather insights into how the different libraries were being used. However, with a lean IT team and tight government budgets, a complex networking solution that required additional analytics tools and resources couldn’t be justified. The small team needed a comprehensive, easy-to-manage solution that could provide the reliable connection visitors expected, while also providing data and analytics to improve library experiences. The MDPLS team was able to meet these requirements by implementing Cisco Meraki cloud-managed access points and switches. The browser-based Meraki dashboard enables complete visibility and control with the entire network being managed from one place, simplifying day-to-day maintenance and troubleshooting.
However, collecting network data was just the first step. The IT team then needed to decide which other IoT or connected devices they wanted to implement to collect additional data. The MDPLS team started this next phase with Meraki MV smart cameras. Like the rest of their Meraki products, the cameras are managed through the same cloud-based dashboard, streamlining the management of all their IT devices. The added benefit of on-camera storage also eliminated the need for a network video recorder (NVR) and its associated software, greatly simplifying the deployment and ongoing maintenance for the IT and facilities teams.
Above all, the most important element of the smart cameras for MDPLS is the built-in machine learning-based analytics. This enables the cameras to anonymously detect and count people, find incidences faster and with more accuracy, and understand where people are moving throughout specific areas, without additional software, servers, or complex configurations. By setting up a camera at each library entrance, the MDPLS team can better understand the number of people entering and exiting throughout the day and learn the overall number of library visitors. Additional cameras throughout the libraries help MDPLS understand what library services are being used and what content is the most popular based on where people are moving and congregating.
In addition to their Meraki access points, switches, and cameras, MDPLS had additional data sources to consider, including book checkout machines, library-owned computers, and more. In order to take advantage of these different data sources, they needed to find a way to collect the data in a digestible format. Using the Meraki API, the team pulls relevant data from the access points, switches, cameras, along with library data, into a cohesive, custom-built dashboard that shows important information about the library system. By having insight into this data, including how many people are visiting each library, the number of people that are using the Wi-Fi on their personal devices versus the library computers, what types of books are being checked out, and what other library resources are being used, the MDPLS leadership is able to determine what additional services and resources their visitors may need. This, in turn, helps to inform them where budget adjustments or additions are needed. With 50 different libraries spread across a very diverse area, being able to ensure the needs of each branch are being met is key to the library system’s success.
To learn more about theMDPLS Meraki deployment and how they are using data and analytics to make decisions, watch the webinar recording with Julio Campa, Systems Support Manager for MDPLS. You will see a live demo of their Meraki dashboard and hear some great insights into their deployment. Watch now.
In case you haven’t already heard, the next generation of wireless is upon us. Wi-Fi 6 promises higher throughputs, substantially better performance in high density environments, and energy savings for connected clients. It’s an exciting time for the entire tech industry, and consumers will soon begin to realize the benefits that this new wireless standard brings, especially when using their devices in congested environments.
The billion dollar question for IT admins remains: when will consumers start using Wi-Fi 6 client devices in earnest? Here’s some information that should help you decide on a timeframe for deploying new Wi-Fi 6 compatible networking hardware, whether you’ve already set aside budget for a network refresh or you’re still considering whether Wi-Fi 6 is worth all the hype.
When will the Wi-Fi 6 spec be officially finalized?
The development of a new wireless standard can take years, and that’s certainly been the case with Wi-Fi 6, whose feature set has been incubating since 2013. Just as with previous standards like 802.11n and 802.11ac, the Wi-Fi Alliance has released a draft spec that hardware makers are basing their new devices on, ahead of the release of the final spec. It’s entirely possible that the Wi-Fi 6 spec won’t be finalized until the last few months of 2019 or even early 2020, and this final version could include additional improvements in terms of performance or energy savings.
That said, there’s no reason to hold off on buying hardware built on the draft Wi-Fi 6 spec. The Wi-Fi Alliance only releases a draft spec once it is committed to no longer making any major changes. Over the next few months, Wi-Fi 6 vendors will understand the mandatory and optional features for the WFA Certification, which will drive future product strategy. However, those who upgrade now will be happy to know that Cisco Wi-Fi 6 compatible hardware has been thoroughly tested with Samsung and Intel Wi-Fi 6 clients.
When will Wi-Fi 6 devices start to hit the market in meaningful numbers?
Wi-Fi 6 compatible access points and switches are coming fast and furious. Almost every major networking vendor, including Cisco Meraki, has announced or is already shipping Wi-Fi 6 compatible hardware. On the other hand, Wi-Fi 6 client devices are still few and far between as of May 2019.
This will all change quickly, though. Wi-Fi 6 devices are expected to be more than half of the devices sold in 2020. Qualcomm, which supplies modems and chipsets for most of the smartphone industry, recently unveiled the Snapdragon 855, which includes support for Wi-Fi 6 and will be included in most Android flagships that debut this year. Other smartphone, computer, and tablet makers across the industry, like Apple, will also undoubtedly unveil support for Wi-Fi 6 soon.
In short: Wi-Fi 6 networking hardware is available from almost every networking vendor today, and by the end of 2019, most new flagship devices should come with the newest generation of Wi-Fi.
When is the best time to invest in new Wi-Fi 6 compatible networking equipment?
Every new Wi-Fi standard comes with a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem: network admins don’t want to be caught flat-footed with outdated networks once newer client devices start appearing everywhere, but these same admins also don’t want to rush to deploy new networking hardware if Wi-Fi 6 client devices won’t appear for a while. The latter scenario is especially relevant if a network refresh comes at the cost of other, more higher priority initiatives. The way to proceed is a bit nuanced, depending on the kind of network environment you’re managing.
If the network you manage supports high density use cases — say, if your users are using Wi-Fi in a crowded office environment, stadium, dining hall, or park — try to prioritize a Wi-Fi 6 deployment. This is doubly true if users are complaining about slow and/or unreliable performance. Even though most users today don’t have Wi-Fi 6 client devices, they will still enjoy some improvements in upstream and downstream throughputs and reliability thanks to the new 8×8 radio architecture of new Wi-Fi 6 APs. Once Wi-Fi 6 client devices start appearing everywhere, the full benefits of Wi-Fi 6 will become immediately apparent: much improved reliability, faster speeds, and improved battery life.
Some IT admins don’t need to worry about high density use cases or may have just undergone a network refresh under the Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac Wave 2) spec. If this is the case for you, it might make sense to wait to deploy Wi-Fi 6 compatible networking equipment until Wi-Fi 6 client devices hit a critical mass. Note that the new Wi-Fi 6 standard is fully backwards-compatible: Wi-Fi 6 client devices will be fully compatible with APs equipped with 802.11ac (or older), and older client devices will still work perfectly fine with Wi-Fi 6 compatible APs.
Wait, what about 5G? Shouldn’t I wait to see how that plays out?
Indeed, Wi-Fi 6 isn’t the only cool new standard hitting the airwaves (pun intended). The other new kid on the block is 5G, a new generation of cellular connectivity that promises dramatically better performance over the current standard, 4G LTE.
Some industry watchers have claimed that 5G means the end of Wi-Fi. After all, they say, now that cellular networks can be as fast as Wi-Fi networks, who needs Wi-Fi?
But the data caps and performance penalties that affect 4G LTE today will likely come with 5G as well. It’s unlikely that an office worker will rely exclusively on 5G bandwidth to get work done for 9 hours a day (or that her office manager will want to pay for it). Additionally, 5G radio frequencies delivering the greatest performance improvements won’t be able to penetrate far indoors and cover those environments as well as Wi-Fi can; it’s no wonder that 5G networks will actually offload more traffic to Wi-Fi networks than LTE networks do today because of the coming influx of more data-hungry devices and applications.
Wi-Fi will continue to have many advantages from a cost standpoint and is superior for most indoor use cases. As a result, IT teams will continue to deploy the latest and greatest in Wi-Fi technology going into the future.
The introduction of Wi-Fi 6 is a watershed moment for the tech world, and as digital technology has become more and more ingrained in consumers’ everyday lives, Wi-Fi 6 will change how we all work, play, and interact with one another. Hopefully you now have a better sense for when the right time is to invest in the next generation of wireless.
To learn more about Wi-Fi 6, check out our white paper and watch the launch webinar for the Meraki MR45 and MR55, our newest APs that are Wi-Fi 6 compatible. And be sure to chime in on the Meraki Community with your thoughts on Wi-Fi 6!
Stepping onto a college or university campus has been a rite of passage for generations of students, and few settings capture the collegiate atmosphere more than dormitories. Dorms represent far more than just a place to sleep and study; they are an integral part of the college experience, providing a place for students to meet one another and acclimate to college life together.
Over the last couple of decades, many dorms have undergone dramatic transformations. As with nearly every other aspect of higher education, dorms have changed thanks to a rapid influx of new technology, from students bringing more wireless devices onto campus to universities replacing keys with access cards for improved physical security. This transformation will continue unabated into the future.
How will dorms continue to evolve? Here are three trends that IT staff should look out for and their implications on the residential college experience.
1. More reliance on SaaS applications
Now more than ever, students are constantly using SaaS applications for learning, entertainment, organization, socializing, and more: everything from Khan Academy to Netflix to Spotify to Xbox Live, all around the clock. This trend has also coincided with a decrease in P2P file sharing, as many students have found it easier to obtain media through legal streaming channels than through torrenting.
What does this mean for IT staff? The greater confluence of “always on” applications means that administrators need to build out network infrastructure that can handle consistently high levels of usage. This makes network deployments both easier and harder. Easier, because once the number of devices and applications connected to the network is known, the amount of traffic is easier to predict and spikes in traffic due to torrenting are less likely. Harder, because demands on the network will likely grow faster than ever before. As a result, IT admins should plan on making extra bandwidth available for future use. Moreover, IT teams that leverage SD-WAN technology can intelligently balance the network load across multiple uplinks, lowering bandwidth costs by delivering MPLS-like reliability on any broadband uplink.
2. Devices flood the dorms
Every year, videos pop up on YouTube showcasing tricked-out dorm rooms with crazy light shows and smart blinds, often designed by enterprising engineering students. While dorm rooms enhanced to this level aren’t the norm, many universities are witnessing smart technologies infiltrate the residence halls, including things like smart speakers and smart home hubs. As EdTech notes, students are bringing personal consumer devices onto campus at an unprecedented rate.
It’s worth noting that students are the only ones bringing new and innovative technology onto campuses. Higher education IT teams have also been deploying new connected devices to enhance the student experience. The University of Michigan and Indiana University, for example, have set up whiteboards with touchscreens, large video conferencing displays, and flat panel TVs to make student programming more accessible and to enable easier student collaboration.
This increase of devices in dorms means that IT admins need to look at network management in a new way. Over the last decade, many higher education IT teams have focused on blanketing large areas of campus with Wi-Fi, but density was historically less of a concern since students only brought 1-2 devices to school. Now, as the number of devices has ballooned, IT admins need to focus their efforts on deploying wireless infrastructure in environments with tough RF challenges. The goal: ensure a great experience on every device for every use case, whether students are doing online research or engaging in live video collaboration.
3. Changes in the way dorms are designed and built
The role of the dorm has seen a fairly dramatic shift over the last few decades. For the most part, dorms used to be a place for students to eat, sleep, and throw the occasional party, while groups who wanted to study would head to the library or academic buildings. However, as digital technology has made collaboration easier — think shared documents and video chat — colleges have rebuilt dorms around the need for students to live and learn in a single building.
What does this look like? As Building Design + Construction notes, select universities are starting to embrace a mix of suite-style privacy with more public spaces designed for greater student interaction. They’ve started to move away from isolated study carrels and instead create more open, collaboration-friendly lounges where groups of students can hang out together. As the cost of security technologies like fingerprint readers and cameras comes down, many universities are equipping dorms with those as well. Some universities are also embracing students’ desires to study outside by outfitting quads and plazas with fast wireless connectivity.
It’s also worth noting that as students continue to bring more devices to campus and more schoolwork is completed through web-based portals, the need for dedicated computer lounges has shrunk significantly.
To adapt to these changes, IT teams need to plan for more dense environments and deploy reliable networking infrastructure that can handle many different devices connecting at once. Additionally, as computer labs become less important in the dorm environment, IT teams may instead install more wireless access points so students can get online from anywhere in the building. Third, as students spend more time inside dorms, the need for physical security (e.g., badge scanners, fingerprint readers, and cameras) increases, as does the need for the networking infrastructure to support these security measures.
To equip dorms for the next decade, IT teams need to build out infrastructure that can support high-bandwidth, always-on applications and that is easy to manage. At the same time, it’s crucial that this infrastructure be protected against the latest security threats and regularly updated with new capabilities. After all, universities can’t afford to deal with security vulnerabilities or rip and replace IT infrastructure every few years.
Cloud-managed networking and security solutions from Cisco Meraki are built with the needs of university environments in mind. All Meraki products receive firmware updates automatically and are managed through a web-based dashboard, making it easy for IT admins to manage many different deployments across campus from a single place.
To learn more about why Meraki is ideal for institutions of higher education, check out our issue brief, Rethinking Dorm Wi-Fi.
Communicating technical topics to a broad audience can be challenging. Photos, illustrations, and video are all helpful tools designed to simplify complex subjects, but it’s easy to go overboard when describing a product as intricate as a switch or security appliance.
Left-to-Right Arrows for Layer 2 – The two sets of arrows going right and left indicate communication between devices at Layer 2. Available on MS device icons. Example:
Diagonal Arrows for Layer 3 – Our Layer 3 icon adds diagonal arrows to indicate the routing capabilities available on MS and MX products. Example:
Wireless – The icon represents a device that has Wi-Fi capabilities. Available on MR wireless, select MX security appliances, and Z-Series teleworker appliances. Example:
MX SD-WAN and security specific symbols – The MX icon includes symbols for inspecting traffic (magnifying glass), diagonal arrows for routing, and a brick wall for protection against bad actors. Example:
Dotted Line for Virtual Appliances – The virtual appliance provides Meraki security and SD-WAN services for migrating IT services to Amazon Web Services and or Microsoft Azure. Example:
Server – The server icon has several sub-icons to highlight important characteristics. Available with cloud, directory, domain, file, web, and Meraki servers. Example:
When MV12 launched back in February, wireless functionality was mentioned, but the specifics were promised for later in the year. Today, the wait is over, as wireless functionality on all MV12 models is now available.
But why wireless anyway? It’s a great question, and the answer is rooted in the architecture of analog camera deployments.
Looking at the back of an analog camera, there are two inputs: data and power. Power for analog cameras traditionally comes from low voltage power supplies—the very same that are hooked up to badge access systems, powered doors, and other facilities infrastructure. Data is transmitted using coaxial cable.
Cabling for an analog camera system.
IP cameras, on the other hand, typically receive data and power via Ethernet, from a PoE-enabled switch.
Users looking to upgrade from analog to IP often realize that after including labor, downtime, and the recabling itself, the process may end up being cost prohibitive, especially at smaller or remote site locations. Consequently, it may not be surprising that these locations are often where VHS-based NVRs can still be found.
A new approach, and a new accessory
Realizing that a recabling requirement can often derail an entire project, we wanted to find a better approach. Utilizing over ten years of Meraki’s wireless experience, MV12 security cameras have been built to be able to connect to any industry standard WiFi network as a wireless client. This means data no longer has to travel via that Ethernet cable.
So how to solve the power dilemma? Starting today, a new Meraki power adapter is available, converting those low voltage power supplies (12VDC/24VAC) into PoE. Installers can simply unplug the power wires from an analog camera, connect them to the terminals in the power adapter in either order (the accessory figures this, and the input voltage, out for you, so no guesswork is required), and an Ethernet cable plugged into the RJ45 port will deliver PoE to a camera.
What about the data? SSID authentication information can be entered in the dashboard. After downloading this configuration through the LAN, cameras can be powered on with this new accessory within range of a wireless access point (it doesn’t have to be a Meraki AP, though centralized management of APs and cameras is a bonus if it is!). And that’s it—the coax cable can simply be left in the wall and will no longer serve a purpose.
This process is quicker, less expensive, and less disruptive than the typical recabling process, and will enable more customers to take advantage of MV12’s advanced analytics, easy-to-use interface, and centralized management.
1:00 pm: Students trickle back into class after a well-deserved lunch break. Eager to get started with their next lesson, they grab their school-issued laptop out of their emptying backpack, log on, and start their next assignment while patiently waiting for the teacher to bring attention to the front of the room. Unbeknownst to the students and teachers actively participating in classroom activities, the network deployment team paces the halls, double checking that each new access point has a home, and that each switch will be comfortable in its new closet.
3:30 pm: The bell rings. Students rejoice; jumping, dancing, and skipping out of the building, excited to get to their study group, sports practice, or friend’s house. Some stay behind to attend an after-school course, work on homework, or attend a teacher’s office hours. Behind the scenes, the deployment team sneaks inside empty classrooms and offices, unmounting old access points and seamlessly swapping them for brand new, inconspicuous access points to take their place. From the gym to the cafeteria, no space can be left unconnected. With great attention to detail and swift hanging capabilities, the team goes room by room, replacing and adding APs, making sure no classroom is left behind.
4:30 pm: The last of the students head home for the day, with tired eyes, full brains, and superb stories. Once everyone has left the campus, and the school buildings start humming in their normal emptied silence, the real fun begins. Operation: the complete switchover. The deployment team speeds through the remaining AP installation. They move onto the closets, and in a sea of cables, sweat, and servers, they unrack and uninstall the legacy switches, tossing them into a corner of their already forgotten memory. Installing the new switches is faster than a cheetah lapping the school, with an organized, lit up rack of switches foreseeable on the other end.
5:00 pm: Testing. Testing. 1, 2, 3, testing. The devices are online. The computers are connecting. The tablets are connecting. Even the phones are connecting! The intrusion detection system is working. The security cameras are on. We are a go! Network complete.
This nonfiction tale tells the story of Orange County Public Schools (OCPS), the 9th largest school district in the United States, with around 208,000 students spread across 200 schools. And yes, they continue to flip schools left and right in four hours, moving them off of their legacy equipment and onto a Meraki network of MR access points and MS switches. Originally a project that David Overton, Senior Director of Information Security, thought would take several years to finish, is on pace to finish in under two years, with the deployment team transitioning three schools a week. And, for the schools that have already moved onto Meraki, not only has student learning through their 1:1 device program continued to work without a hitch, but the simplified management through the Meraki dashboard has been a lifesaver for the IT team.
To learn more about OCPS and their Meraki deployment, watch a webinar recording with David and a Meraki product specialist. They discussed why David chose Meraki, how they are able to install a new network in 4 hours, and why a robust network is imperative to supporting their 1:1 device program. Watch here!
This is the sixth in a series of blog posts that focus on wireless technology and security at Cisco Meraki.
The frequency spectrum that wireless networks operate in are shared frequency spectra; this is one of the reasons that Wi-Fi networks are so polite with one another. However, there are many more potential sources of interference, such as Bluetooth and microwave ovens in the 2.4GHz spectrum or medical scanners and radar in the 5GHz spectrum.
These sources of interference can have a detrimental effect on the usability of wireless networks. Meraki Auto RF is a powerful and automated RF optimization solution that ensures that Meraki APs create the best possible environment for the clients served.
Listen and Learn
Auto RF is able to do this because all Meraki APs have a dedicated security radio that also provides visual spectrum analysis. The Meraki APs also share this data with the Auto RF algorithm to determine the optimal channel plan and transmit power appropriately. In addition to this, Meraki network administrators can also get access to real-time channel utilization scans from the live tools section of each and every AP, as shown below:
This gives the administrator both instantaneous and historical data about interference sources seen by that particular AP. This listening radio can also be accessed to provide information in an industry-standard format too, which has traditionally only been available on dedicated spectrum analysis tools.
For customers with older Meraki APs without dedicated listening radios, it is possible to configure the access radios so that they periodically stop serving clients and start listening to the RF.
Auto channel is enabled by default on Meraki networks but can be turned off if desired. When enabled, the Meraki dashboard follows best practice for channel use, meaning that only the three non-overlapping channels in the 2.4GHz spectrum are available. In the 5GHz spectrum, the channels available to the AP depends on both the country and hence regulatory domain that the AP is installed in and the type of AP, i.e. indoor or outdoor. Additionally the network administrator can choose to exclude DFS channels, which will prevent the AP from having to roam away from a channel if a radar signal is detected. Finally, administrators can also select the default channel width for transmission in the 5GHz band, as 802.11n supports channel widths of 40 MHz and 802.11ac supports channel widths of 80 MHz and up to 160 MHz, although 160 MHz is not suitable for enterprise deployments or supported in the Meraki dashboard.
In order to tune the transmit channel, the APs track the following three things:
Usage Demand – APs within the dashboard network are monitored for their usage demand, i.e. the number of clients and amount of traffic being served by the AP. These values are mathematically combined so that each AP has a weighted value. This value is then used to ensure that the cleanest channels are utilized in the most demanding areas.
Airtime Availability – Each access point listens to the contention and airtime availability, i.e. free time in the medium, for each channel and bandwidth combination. When this data is aggregated it can be used to maximize the available airtime for all APs in the network, also known as the Basic Service Set (BSS), and also minimizes contention and improves client roaming performance. All visible APs — even neighboring APs — are considered in this metric, with Meraki APs being weighted higher to optimize roaming and airtime usage distribution. As opposed to just being polite (i.e. presuming they have as high a priority to the airtime as the Meraki AP and they’re clients) with respect to neighboring networks and APs, this metric ensures that the AP and its clients also have ample airtime availability.
Channel Utilization – This metric includes both 802.11 and non-802.11 (Bluetooth, microwave ovens, etc.) sources of spectrum utilization. These external sources of interference are detected and accounted for within this metric.
The dashboard uses this information to tell the APs to move to a different channel if, say, a new AP is added, a channel becomes jammed, or the network administrator clicks the “Update Auto Channels” button.
Channel moves can also be triggered by the “Steady State” process, which runs every 15 minutes. The Steady State process will instruct the AP to move channels if a better channel, based on the above criteria exists. However, the Steady State process is aware when a channel is being used for point-to-point communications and it will not change the channels of APs acting as a gateway AP.
Auto Tx Power
Auto Tx Power operates by sampling the signal-to-noise ratio of neighboring APs in the same network. These readings are compiled into neighbor reports that are sent to the dashboard for processing. All AP neighbor reports are then aggregated and the dashboard leverages that aggregated data to determine each AP’s direct neighbors — APs that clients being served by the AP are likely to roam to — and how much each AP should adjust its transmit power to optimize cell coverage. The dashboard completes this calculation and instructs the APs to adjust their respective transmit power once every 20 minutes.
As with Auto Channel, Auto Tx Power is mesh-aware and the same Steady State process/algorithm prevents power adjustments for APs that are acting as a gateway for an active mesh repeater.
Meraki’s Auto RF technology auto-tunes the RF for all but the most particular RF environments, and it does so without any need for additional appliances, services or licenses, by leveraging the power of the power.